February 9, 2005
It's been a little while, so I thought it might be time to look back at what's happening with B15A, that rogue iceberg that's been killing off the Antarctic penguin population. (Ok, that's a little alarmist. The iceberg is causing problems, but it's not anything unusual. This process repeats itself at least once a decade.)
The big news is that U.S. and Russian icebreaker ships have cleared a seaway to McMurdo station and a U.S. fuel tanker ship and a cargo vessel have made it to dock down at that southernmost continent. Their arrival ensures that the scientific community will have the supplies needed to make it through the Antarctic winter, namely the food, equipment and fuel they need prior to the "travel blackout" that the harsh winter conditions mandate. (Air travel to Antarctica in the Winter is basically for medical emergencies only.)
The annual pre-winter clearing was made more difficult by the B15A iceberg that ran aground a few weeks ago and which has been playing havoc with the "fast ice" that builds up in the Ross Sea. This ice builds up every winter and then breaks up every summer to float out to sea. With B15A parked in the sea-ocean boundary, fast ice that broke up was unable to make it's way out to sea. This ice jamms up the Ross Sea and adds to next years collection of "fast ice" making transit to McMurdo even more difficult than it already is.
Ice clearing operations were made more difficult by the loss of one of the U.S. Coast Guards icebreakers to regular routine maintenance. The Polar Sea is currently in drydock, leaving all the work down south to the Polar Star. Furthermore, the Polar Star had recent problems that required her to be docked for repairs for approximately two weeks. Luckily, the Russian icebreaker Krasin was able to be contracted to conduct icebreaking operations with the repaired Polar Star.
So the Antarctic bases are resupplied, but the Penguins still have to walk 80km (on two inch legs) to reach the ocean. Looks like the well dressed bird population is going to take a hit. It will recover though, no worries there.
Here's what you've been waiting for (or maybe not), a new picture of B15A:
There's some light cloud cover, but you can see the build up of fast ice in the Ross Sea being blocked by the aircraft carrier shaped berg.
Older photos are also in this post.
Posted by JasonColeman at February 9, 2005 4:36 PM